Our very own Dr Rahul Lakhera shares his guidance on how to achieve better quality sleep with a few simple lifestyle changes
There’s a common misconception that ‘sleep is for the weak’ and ‘you can sleep when you’re dead’, but it’s vital to recognise and understand the endless benefits a good night’s sleep can have on your health.
Whether it’s physical or mental recovery, prolonged life expectancy or healthy weight loss, improving sleep is incremental to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
OneWellness’ Sports Performance Specialist GP, Dr Rahul Lakhera, has shared insight into the reasons why sleep is so important in both physical and mental wellbeing, as well as tips on how to achieve better quality sleep with just a simple few changes to your nightly routine.
Dr Lakhera explains: “Our sleep is influenced by several factors including hormones, such as cortisol, melatonin and serotonin, light and nutrition. That’s why the following tips surround controlling elements such as your environment, nutrition and routine, in order to reduce the impact these factors have on your sleep.
“Our bodies go through 90-minute cycles during sleep, in order to restore, rest and recover both physically and psychologically. Therefore, in order to optimise the benefits of this nightly regeneration, around 7.5-8 hours of sleep each night is ideal.
“Typically, many of us struggle to achieve this due to factors such as social pressures, stress and a lack of natural light exposure resulting in too much artificial light.”
Here are Dr Rahul’s tips on how to combat some of these inconveniences and create a better-quality night’s sleep.
- Body clock
Starting when you wake up, it is beneficial to train your body clock by waking up at a regular time each day, kickstarting your circadian rhythm and then following this up with exposure to natural light in order to signal the start of releasing the hormone melatonin.
20 – 30 minutes of natural light exposure around 9-10am each day will ensure a productive start to your day with a healthy routine in place. In order to build up sleepiness, you need at least 12 waking hours to build maximum melatonin levels.
- Bedtime routine
It is crucial to avoid artificial light at night time, as darkness signals to us that it’s time to sleep. Therefore, avoiding blue light from screens is a vital component to ensure we get a good night’s rest; it’s best to stay away from technology altogether when it’s almost bedtime, or alternatively wear blue light blocking glasses if you have no choice.
If you have children, you’ll probably be very aware of the importance of a bedtime routine to get the little ones off to sleep. This same concept is vital for adults, as a bedtime routine signals our bodies to prepare to sleep, enabling us to wind down and reduce stress levels.
As the evening is the best time to switch off and relax, you should try and avoid stress at this time as much as possible.
To do this, practice meditation, take part in hobbies and focus on breathing techniques. These are all methods that should encourage relaxation, and subsequently a better-quality sleep.
Breathing techniques stimulate the “rest and digest” function also known as parasympathetic nervous system, which as a result enables your body to relax.
This is one for the coffee-lovers…
Caffeine is a serious inhibitor of a good night’s sleep, as it has similar effects to drugs and alcohol – it effects the way our brain functions. It has been found that even good metabolisers sleep much better when they are taken off regular caffeine.
Therefore, staying away from caffeine on an evening (which, yes, means switching to decaf!), will allow your brain to relax into a calmer, sleep-friendly state.
It is increasingly difficult to relax and fall asleep when you’re too hot or cold. The optimal temperature to aim for is 19°C.
What you’re putting into your body can have a detrimental impact on your body’s ability to wind down and relax.
During the evening, you should aim to eat fewer complex carbohydrates and not eat too late as this can also increase your body temperature. Try not to eat after 8pm.
There are sprays and supplements you can take that can aid your sleep, such as magnesium.
Medication is an extremely personal factor, however, sleeping tablets do not provide a fully regenerative night’s sleep as they do not enable your body to get into a REM sleep. They provide sedation which is not sleep! REM is the psychological repair element of your sleep cycle.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping and would like to book an appointment with Dr Lakhera, please call us on 01423 568212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.